Evangelical Christianity’s Patriarchal Alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey

Evangelical Christianity’s Patriarchal Alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey February 21, 2015

This is probably the creepiest video you will watch this week:


. . . yeah.

Old Fashioned is a Christian movie alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey, released the same day last week. In the above video, the producers of Old Fashioned compare the hero of Old Fashioned, Clay, with Christian Grey, and frankly, it’s not flattering—to either of them.

In fact, I found this advertisement so bad I ended up transcribing it:

It’s a hard thing for a dad to accept any man as being worthy of his daughter’s hand in marriage. In fact, it’s impossible for her to find the perfect man, because no man is perfect. Nevertheless, a good dad always wants the very best for his little girl. 

Nope nope nope. Can we reject this patriarchal framing already?! First of all, we’re talking about women here, not little girls. Women get married—little girls don’t. Second, why address this to fathers in the first place? Why not address it to single women looking for a spouse? They’re the ones actually making this decision, after all!

This Valentine’s Day two movies featuring two intriguing men will hit the big screen giving fathers daughters mothers and sons the opportunity to talk about what they really want in a spouse. 

This seems odd to me, because Fifty Shades of Grey is a movie marketed toward adults, not children. I could see it coming up in discussions with teens, but certainly not with the “little girls” referenced a moment ago.

Christian Grey is the title character of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Clay Walsh is the key character in the movie Old Fashioned. Grey and Clay. These two men have so much in common but in other ways they’re radically different. 

And now we get a list!

First, consider their commonalities. 

Both men are very much human with sordid past and serious control issues. Both have a hard time with true intimacy, with sketchy sexual histories. Both are very private, resisting vulnerability, having and holding secrets. Both attempt to warn their love, trying to scare them away. Both demand their rigid rules be followed. Both feel undeserving of true love. 

Um. I’m going with run.

Now consider the contrasts between them. 

One responds to an abusive past by perpetuating a cycle of abuse; the other goes to extremes to break that cycle. One creates a license to hurt his lover; the other insists on a license to honor the relationship. One choses sex before marriage; the other refuses sex outside of marriage. One wields power through mystery and force; the other wins his woman through candor and kindness. One unleashes his dark desires; the other refuses to let his desires lead him, and nobly controls them. One’s view of love ignores God and insists of pain; the other’s love is born of God and insists on protection. 

I get the feeling that these producers, like so many others, are equating BDSM with abuse here. I would argue, and have argued already, that Christian Grey was abusive toward Ana, but it’s not the BDSM I’m talking about. It’s the control issues, the emotional manipulation and lack of consideration for consent I take issue with. I don’t have a problem with BDSM. This stuff here about hurting one’s lover, or unleashing one’s “dark” desires, or insisting on pain—so long as these occur within consensual and safe BDSM, I do not have a problem with these things. I also don’t have a problem with love that “ignores God” (I’m an atheist, after all!) or premarital sex.

As a side note, from watching the preview for Old Fashioned and a few other clips, I believe that the reference above to Clay creating a “license” refers to a sort of contract or list of rules for relationships—one of which is that Clay refuses to ever be alone in a room with a woman who is not his wife. This does not sound to me like a license “to honor the relationship,” unless one is operating under a very different definition of “honor” than others.

I’m going to go with what I said earlier: run.

Dad, what do you want for your little girl? Bondage and abuse, or chivalry and respect?

What about what the little girl (er, woman) wants? Is that irrelevant here? And where’s the understanding that bondage and abuse are two different things, and that respect is not mutually exclusive of bondage, or that chivalry does not actually imply respect? I get the feeling people like these think that respecting someone means treating them like a prized porcelain doll. Nope. Nope it doesn’t.

Daughter, think of what your dad is like as you look for the man you want to be your husband and protector. 

First of all, what if a woman grew up with an abusive father? Or, like me, with a micromanaging father who freezes people out when they do something he doesn’t like? And second, note the inclusion of those last two words—and protector. In the evangelical world, women need protection, and fathers and husbands provide that protection. I’d rather learn to protect myself, thank you very much.

Grey or Clay? 

Choose wisely at the theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend. 

Okay! How about I chose neither?

On the plus side, some of the comments on the video were pure gold.

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You can see the trailer for Old Fashioned here:

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